Within the span of seven days, the world lost two giants who stood for freedom and human dignity — Senator John McCain and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. They were public servants who dedicated much of their their lives to upholding universal values, and advancing democracy and human rights. This is a time when we remember the causes to which they were dedicated and honor their legacies. NDI is proud to have worked with Kofi Annan and his foundation in efforts to promote electoral integrity.
Senator McCain, the long-time chairman of the International Republican Institute, and NDI have been partners in a common mission. Senator McCain and NDI Chairman Madeleine Albright experienced in different ways, but on a very personal level, the absence of freedom in their lives -- he as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and she as a refugee escaping the Nazis and then the Communists in Czechoslovakia, her country of birth. That shared experience shaped their world view and reinforced the close cooperation between our two institutes.
Last September, I announced my plans to retire after 32 years at NDI. I will be stepping down next week when Derek Mitchell will become the Institute's new president. Ambassador Mitchell is an outstanding choice by NDI's Board of Directors. During the 1990s, Derek was a senior program officer at NDI, and has worked in the U.S. Senate, the Department of Defense and at respected Washington think tanks. Most recently, he served as ambassador to Myanmar/Burma. He has always been deeply committed to NDI's mission, and the Institute will benefit from his leadership, experience and expertise as it responds to new opportunities and challenges.
Alongside a talented and dedicated staff, as well as a global network of volunteers, I have been privileged to work with thousands of courageous democrats in every region of the world who have struggled against tremendous odds to live in democratic societies. These efforts have not always been easy or cost free; local partners have often sacrificed their livelihoods, and sometimes their freedoms and lives, for fundamental human and political rights. At NDI, we have lost staff members to terrorist attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to ethnic cleansing in Burundi; in Egypt, staffers were tried and convicted on spurious charges and sentenced to up to five years in prison.
I am most proud of the deep and abiding relationships that we have forged with a community of democrats in every region of the world – with governments, political parties, parliaments, civic organizations, along with women, youth and marginalized communities – who work to advance a more peaceful, stable and humane world.
NDI, I believe, has remained true to its mission while adapting and changing as new challenges have emerged. Our growing work in areas of governance, information technology, disinformation, violent extremism, along with women and youth empowerment, are but a few examples of this adaptation and change. Yet more needs to be done to help address democratic deficits and backsliding. We are experiencing what has been called a decade-long "democratic recession." At the same time, we are reminded of recent examples of democratic resilience – from Burkina Faso, Armenia and Malaysia, to The Gambia, Ethiopia and Slovakia.
NDI could not carry out its mission without the leadership of our Board of Directors, led by Madeleine Albright, the support of the U.S. Congress, and the generosity of our private and public donors, including the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID, the Department of State, along with the governments of the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland, to name but a few.
I am currently serving on the Board of the Commission on Presidential Debates, as a member of the George W. Bush Institute's Advisory Council on Human Freedom, and as a member of USAID's Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Assistance. I will be taking and teaching a few college classes, and spending more time on the golf course and with my grandson. I will also be staying on temporarily as a part-time consultant to NDI.
With warm regards and deep appreciation,